The BBC's breathtaking opening to their coverage of London 2012 Olympics opening ceremonies, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.
My, what a difference an opening ceremony makes.
Seven years ago, when the Olympic Committee announced London as the location of the 2012 Olympics, I yawned. Great, but I wouldn't be around to see it. I'd be back in the United States, where I belonged. It would be painful to watch, I figured, seeing the familiar scenes, hearing the familiar accents, spotting the familiar landmarks.
But a funny thing happened to our plans. They changed. And changed again. And with my constantly changing plans, my love for England waxed and waned. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, but even more, the thought of parting breeds careful condescension.
When our five years were up, I decided it would be helpful if I didn't like living here anymore. So I began finding things to dislike about England and her people. Too inept, I decided, when Heathrow closed for five days after receiving five inches of snow. (That was an easy one.) Too anti-American, I argued, after reading yet another list of "most hated Americanisms". Not innovative enough, not warm enough, not flexible enough—and all the nonsense about the Olympic committee's determination to protect their sponsors at the expense of our crisp packets played right into that, I must say.
I went on like that for two or three years, expecting to leave here with a not-too-heavy heart, any month now. Twice we came close to moving to the States, and twice our plans were cancelled at virtually the last minute.
And now, in the summer of 2012, I've found out there is no plan to move, not in the near future. We are here for a while yet.
But my love for England had not waxed at all this summer. Until a week or so ago, we were trapped by a perverse jet stream, locked in a monochrome weather pattern of non-stop rain and clouds. My mood was grim. This god-forsaken land, no longer green but 50 shades of grey, no longer pleasant but muddy and damp, could no more enchant me than that silly Olympic mascot.
But the jet stream turned. The countenance divine shone forth on these clouded hills, as William Blake would say. Or as I would say, the sun came out, in all its 30 degree glory.
Summer in England was always my favorite season.
And so last night, I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics, my windows and doors wide open to let the evening breeze in, BBC on the telly, and my Twitter app open on my phone, ready to share my cynicism with the rest of the viewing world.
They had me at the source of the Thames.
I remember searching, once, for the source of the great River Thames, the first spring I lived here. With a couple of friends, I puttered around in my little red car, my chariot of fire, through Gloucestershire—the Shire, crossing footpaths and wandering around lush fields. We never found it, but we all fell in love with this green and pleasant land.
Last night's ceremony moved me, with all its not-at-all understated special effects, its improbable landing of the Queen—as in Her Majesty—and its reminder of that other Queen, those other pop legends. Its inclusiveness, its innovativeness, its lack of timidity, were a timely reminder of what Great Britain, this "peculiar and contrary" country, means to me, if not to the world.
I won't go on: there are reviews aplenty. Director Danny Boyle explains it best in his statement on the ceremony's purpose, beginning with a quote from another great Englishman, William Shakespeare: "Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises."
But we hope, too, that through all the noise and excitement you'll glimpse a single golden thread of purpose—the idea of Jerusalem—of the better world, the world of real freedom and true equality, a world that can be built through the prosperity of industry, through the caring nation that built the welfare state, through the joyous energy of popular culture, through the dream of universal communication. A belief that we can build Jerusalem. And that it will be for everyone.
Including me, it seems.